Decker is currently at the top level of sports achievement, as she will be playing with the USA Women's Hockey Team Wednesday night against Canada for the gold medal in Pyeongchang.
Brianna Decker has played sports her whole life. Her grandparents Bob O'Bryan and Charlotte O’Bryan believe it’s because of her brothers. They recall her growing up around the boys and always trying to compete. Through playing sports like soccer and her eventual professional sport of hockey, they say she grew the skill set for it all. At a young age, she was forced to play on the boy’s teams, which is why Charlotte O’Bryan thinks she is as competitively natured as she is today.
“She always played tough, no matter the sport,” Charlotte O’Bryan said. “She has a knack for it.”
Decker is currently at the top level of sports achievement, as she will be playing with the USA Women’s Hockey Team Wednesday night against Canada for the gold medal in Pyeongchang. She plays forward on the team with the number 14 and has already achieved a silver medal with the team in 2014, after a heartbreaking loss in the finals with a lead late into the game. The O’Bryans see this as a major motivation for her going into 2018.
“It was a difficult game to lose,” Charlotte O’Bryan said. “I think it’s been a push for them ever since.”
Decker saw much of her professional experience come from time on the University of Wisconsin hockey team. She played her entire college career until graduation, which was near the time of her first Olympic run in 2014. Decker attempted to take part on the 2010 Olympic team, but was cut off due to age. During the Olympic off seasons, she lives in Boston and has a starting role with the Boston Pride women’s hockey team as part of the NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League.)
“She feels very honored to played with the NWHL,” Charlotte O’Bryan said. “It’s the first national hockey league for women in the country and it’s something she enjoys a lot.”
Bob O’Bryan says that watching their granddaughter compete in the Olympics is like nothing else. Though the two watch professional hockey nightly and keep up with other professional sports, he says knowing that their own bloodline is representing something so big brings a rush to the excitement unlike anything he’s felt before. He says they feel similarly to the rest of the women on the team, being that Decker has grown such a bond with them.
“I’ll be sitting there and watching her and realize an hour has gone by already,” Bob O’Bryan said. “You really get into it. You keep an eye on where she is and what she’s doing. After the game, I feel invested in her performance.”
The O’Bryans say that Decker has no definite plans to return to the Olympics in 2022. Though they know the coach and team will actively try to retain her, Decker has made it clear to them that she has ambitions to move forward with her degree in Human Development and Family Studies. That, and the amount of hockey she’s played is beginning to take its toll physically. However, she has made no permanent plans at this point.
With this in mind, the O’Bryans know Wednesday’s championship game may be the last they see of her at this level. Charlotte O’Bryan foresees it as being a bittersweet moment, whether they win or lose. Even so, she says Decker has expressed interest in coaching youth leagues or even higher level hockey in the future. Bob O’Bryan believes the sport is something that she will never be able to let go of.
“It’s going to be a little heart piercing, watching the game Wednesday,” Bob O’Bryan said. “With hockey, even if you get out of it, you’re still in it. She’ll love to get involved later on, it’s become a part of her and we are so proud.”
Team USA Women’s Hockey plays for the gold medal Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 10:10 p.m. CT.